FJ Holden: Reader resto

By: Scott Murray with Steve Henderson, Photography by: Steve Henderson/Scott Murray

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Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden
Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden Reader resto: FJ Holden

Steve Henderson's boyhood bedroom wall inspired a labour of love. His mint FJ went from pin-up to head-turner...

FJ Holden: Reader resto
Reader resto: FJ Holden

 

FJ Holden resto

Like most young boys growing up, my bedroom walls were covered with car posters. They were constantly being swapped and moved, except for the two on my bedroom door. One was a poster of an FJ Holden and the other was a 1966 Mustang. I didn’t know a lot about cars at the time, so I think it was the look that drew me to them. Growing up, my plan was to own one of each.

Not long after starting university at age 18, I began the search for my FJ. By this stage I knew a bit about cars and I definitely knew what I wanted in my FJ. For months on end, I would drag my father all over Melbourne and beyond looking at cars. We must have looked at 20 or more before finding the ‘one’.

The car was a 1955 FJ Special Sedan in the exact two-tone colour combination I was looking for; Blue Bird Blue over Haze Blue, with two-tone interior in Luxor Blue and Cosmos Grey. Best of all it was a genuine one-owner car that had travelled just 90,000 miles.

The car came with the original registration certificate, owner’s manual, service receipts dating back to 1958 and a handful of other documents.

It had quite a lot of accessories fitted including a SSR Auxiliary instrument kit, under dash parcel shelf, Kent built-in steering lock, quarter-vent window locks, vacuum windshield washers, chrome fuel filler cover, fire extinguisher, towbar and front sun visor.

The car was originally advertised for $5500 and after much negotiation, I purchased the car for $4300 on 23rd August 1994 (actually the day after my 20th birthday).

The plan was to get the FJ cleaned up as quickly as possible so I could sell my other car (a 1972 Mazda 1300) and get into the FJ as my daily driver.

We borrowed a trade plate from Dad’s work and picked it up the next day. I don’t recall if I drove the car home, but it was the last time it drove in that condition. Within hours of the car getting home, I began dismantling it.

I worked on the car every free minute I had. The car’s exterior was completely stripped and 18 days after purchasing it the FJ was on a trailer, headed for Graeme Cuthbert Automotive in Box Hill to get painted up.

At the time Cuthbert’s specialised in imported and prestige vehicles. Graeme Cuthbert was a mate of Dad’s, so he shuffled some jobs to ensure we got in and out as quickly as possible.

I helped Dad restore his car three years earlier. Cuthbert’s painted that car after I spent nearly two weeks stripping it. Still scarred from that paint stripping experience, I decided to leave it to the professionals this time.

Cuthbert’s stripped the car back, revealing only a few minor rust spots, namely a small section of floor at the driver’s feet and the lower front section of the rear fenders. Fortunately Rare Spares had rust repair sections available, so the rust was cut out and new panels were welded in place. The guys at Cuthbert’s did a great job. The car was painted in the original two-tone colour combo and was ready for collection on 5th November 1994; just under two months from start to finish.

Once the paint work was done, Fontana Trimming Service manufactured and installed a beautiful new headlining, matching the original grey cloth. The guys from Knights Windscreen Repairs polished all of the original glass and installed the front and rear screens using new rubbers from Rare Spares.

I refurbished the kingpin front-end using parts from Rare Spares. The brake wheel and master cylinders were given to Southern Brake and Clutch in Springvale to have them re-sleeved in stainless steel. A new radiator came from Lofts Auburn Radiators in Burwood and Pedders black touring shock absorbers replaced the worn out units.

I decided the four-inch cross ply tyres wouldn’t cut it for a P-plater driving the old girl daily, so a second set of FJ rims along with four 15in Volvo rims were sourced. Ajax Motor Wheels in Moorabbin mounted the wider Volvo rims onto the FJ centres to give me 5-inch wide front and 5.5in wide rear wheels. A set of 205/75R15 Michelin radials were mounted to the rims.

I decided to add seat belts and indicators to the car to be on the safe side. While rummaging around in an old automotive store in Ferntree Gully, I came across some amber glass lenses that I thought would be perfect for indicators. It took me a few weeks to find the rest of the parts to make them complete, but it was worth the effort.

I also removed the reflectors from the rear chrome fins and modified them to take stop/tail lights. To cap it off, I flipped around a truck lens, leaving a bee hive-shaped lens to match the original centre brake light. I bought a pair of retractable lap sash seat belts, but couldn’t bring myself to install them. Plus, they were black and looked wrong. So to continue with the FJ’s originality, I fitted a pair of blue front lap belts sourced from an HR Holden instead, which ‘disappear’ a bit better too. It did mean I had to modify the B-pillar to get an internal bracket in because I’m not a fan of seeing the bolt through the pillar.

While the car was away being painted, I had polished all of the stainless trims and had the chrome work done by Renew Bumpers in Dandenong, who at the time were doing chrome plating. Everything that was removed had been cleaned, polished or painted ready for reassembly.

University exams were over, so I spent every waking minute working on the car. It went back together very quickly. I was desperate to have it on the road and registered before Christmas. As it turned out I missed my deadline by a few days. I got a roadworthy certificate and registered the car with the original registration numbers on 28th December, 1994.

Once complete, I joined the Early Model Holden Club of Victoria early in 1995. I took the car on a few car runs and displays with them. The president of the club was contacted by someone wanting a nice FJ for a TV series that was to be filmed in Melbourne. He passed on my details and in September 1996, my car featured in two episodes of a series called Good Guys Bad Guys. I remember driving with a mate the day after the show went to air. I was pretty pleased when we got stopped at the lights by some people wanting to know if it was the car they saw on television!

Not wanting to let the condition of the car deteriorate, I retired the car from its daily duties a couple of years later. In 2001 we used the FJ as our wedding car, so now it has some sentimental value to my wife as well.

Later this year I plan on touching up a few bits and pieces. Nearly 20 years after being painted, the FJ still presents pretty well and gets a lot of attention when it’s out. I like the fact that a majority of the car is still original. But I’m still in two minds as to whether or not I restore the engine bay.


*****


More reviews:

> Reader resto: Holden FJ Utility

> Holden FJ Station Wagon

> Video: Holden 48-215

 

 

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